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Some Lessons on JDF --Waldman

November 2003
Last spring, I got a call from Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of this magazine. I probably shattered has eardrum with my reaction.

"What! You want me to write a 4,000 word article explaining JDF? Mark, I know what JDF is, but I am not an expert. How about six words and a few exclamation points?" Mark, in his usual unflappable manner, simply replied, "Become an expert."

I moved to a higher octave as he explained to me that even though Printing Impressions was hiring me to write the article, it was a piece sponsored by Adobe and Heidelberg.

All I could imagine was that I not only had to face the scrutiny of both Mark Michelson and Technology Editor Mark Smith, but also the corporate review of Adobe and Heidelberg. But Michelson kept encouraging me to do it.

I did it. It appeared in the June issue and I hope you read it. Not because I wrote it, but because it was easily one of the most fascinating, exciting and rewarding writing assignments I have experienced. I learned, and then realized, that JDF is destined to play an integral role in the future of the printing industry. It's definitely something you need to know about. I realize that's a big statement, but bear with me on this.

At first, I assumed that Adobe and Heidelberg had standard corporate motives, and that I had to tout them in the article. They didn't. Their sole objective was to convey and educate about the critical importance of JDF. In fact, they hardly altered a word of what I wrote. They did, however, put some great resources at my disposal, particularly Adobe's Mathias Siegel, senior product manager, publishing technologies and services; and James Mauro, product manager for Heidelberg's Prinect press products.

Both were extremely knowledgeable and their enthusiasm was contagious. Robin Tobin, senior manager of marketing for Adobe, also responded quickly with whatever information or resource I needed. And CIP4's Website,, was invaluable, as were articles that Mark Smith wrote in previous issues of this magazine.

I'm sure that many of you were way ahead of me on understanding JDF, and what impact it will have on our industry. But for those that are not as familiar, let me offer a brief explanation. JDF (which stands for Job Definition Format) is based on XML or Extensible Mark-up Language. In simple terms, it allows information to piggy-back with a file. For example, if you created a job in your favorite JDF-compliant desktop publishing program, details like page size and number of pages are already known and can be incorporated into the JDF file automatically. Other information, like quantity and delivery details, would have to be entered manually.

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